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MISSION, RGV – Southwest Steel Coil, Inc., held an open house recently for VIPs to see its new manufacturing plant in Mission.

The company, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Calstrip Industries Inc. performs slitting, cutting to length and blanking of carbon and stainless steel, and aluminum from master coils of 40,000 to 45,000 pounds.

Southwest Steel acquired a 7-acre site with rail access in the Mission Expressway Business Park in 2014. There it constructed a Class A, 100,000 square foot, facility and created about 50 good-paying jobs.

Asked why Southwest Steel chose the Rio Grande Valley, Ed Camden, president of the company, told the Rio Grande Guardian via email:

“Southwest Steel Coil began exploring the possibilities of a facility in the Rio Grande Valley in 2014. The area appeared to provide us with an opportunity to duplicate our business model, which is to locate very near our customers on the U.S./Mexico border to process steel and aluminum and provide Just-in-Time delivery.

“With the new Mission, Texas, facility, combined with our facilities in Mira Loma, California, and Santa Teresa, New Mexico, we can now provide same day service to the entire U.S./Mexico border. All facilities are rail-serviced for reduced inbound freight costs.

“The Mission location now has a Braner 60” slitting and packaging line in operation. We are in the process of installing a Braner 24” slitter and Barco 16-head oscillator. Late in 2016 a new Braner 60” sheeting and blanking line will be installed. When the entire project is completed in late 2016, the total investment will exceed $10 million.”

Camden first approached McAllen Economic Development Corporation about constructing a manufacturing plant in the Valley. MEDC passed the potential client over to Mission Economic Development Corporation because it had a rail spur.

“This was a joint effort between McAllen EDC and Mission EDC. It is a really good example of the two EDCs working together,” said Alex Meade, CEO of Mission EDC. “A year and a half ago, this was seven acres of raw land. Now we have about a $15 million investment, we have got 50 jobs in the community, we have products coming from all over the country, going into Mexico and other parts of the U.S. In fact, we have product coming through the Port of Brownsville that is going to be arriving at this plant. This is a project that is benefiting the entire Valley.”

Meade said that in some ways, Southwest Steel’s investment in the Valley was speculative. “Because of the success they had in New Mexico, they knew that if they located a plant here there would be some interest. But it still was something of a speculative investment. They were hoping they could get the same return they are getting in New Mexico and sure enough, now companies are finding out they are here, Southwest Steel is starting to benefit. They really are the only company of its type that offers this kind of service on this side of the border. It was a risky investment in the sense that they were hoping they would get customers and sure enough, they already have customers.”

With Royal Technologies just down the street from Southwest Steel, Meade was asked if Mission has the potential to develop a manufacturing cluster. He said: “I think it is testament to the fact that the Valley is competitive. These are the sorts of manufacturing plants you typically see in Reynosa. On this side of the border you typically see more of a distribution center, or logistics. The fact that we can touch and feel this, benefit from the capital investment, benefit from the property taxes and the jobs, I think it is a good win for the community.”

Meade pointed out that in the four years he and his team has been at Mission EDC, 60 of the 70 acres in the industrial park have been sold. “We have about ten acres left. I think we can start to say McAllen-Mission does have a manufacturing cluster.”

Asked what happens when the industrial park is full, Meade said: “Either we will buy more land for another industrial park or we focus on other things. As you know, we have the Center for Education and Economic Development. We planted that to give us more space and more opportunity to cultivate the small business sector.”

Meade concluded the interview with another tribute to McAllen EDC. “McAllen EDC has done a really good job in recruiting manufacturing companies, on both sides of the border, Reynosa and McAllen. Because of the growth they have in McAllen, we are seeing the growth spill over into Mission.”

Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas was one of the VIPs that toured Southwest Steel’s Mission facility. At the time Southwest Steel announced it was coming to Mission, Salinas said: “Southwest Steel’s expansion into Mission is a testament to the prosperous business climate that this region offers. I am thrilled about the expansion, and I am fully supportive of their decision to bring additional jobs and added revenue to our community.”